In truth, life is anything but ordinary while raising kids. There are ordinary seasons in life, of course, (the potty training stages, the pre-school years, the middle school years, etc.) but the seasons string together in such a way that they fool me into believing they are a seamless stretch of time. Sometimes it’s not until something new starts up that I realize that something else has ended, having gone away quietly without a formal goodbye. School is the obvious exception—each year has a definite start and end.
I have school bus-shaped picture frames for Tyler, Emily and Erin that have places for every school year’s photo. In the fall when they return to school and get their yearbook picture taken, I dutifully put in their new photo in their School Years’ frames. Right now as the school year winds down for the kids I’m once again reminded that they are growing up with another grade under their belts.
Except this summer is different. It is the last ordinary summer. Tyler’s picture frame will be full next fall.
One could argue that last summer, the first summer Tyler had his driver’s license and got his first job, was our first non-ordinary summer. After all, it was the first time that we had to consider his employment when we made our annual vacation to the lake. But to me, last summer doesn’t count. His part time job at the golf course didn’t interfere with our family’s plans, and his boss was very accommodating with letting him have time off, so it wasn’t an issue. He was still home sleeping in his bedroom almost every night, like he will be this summer. But he’s a Junior in high school now, so I know that next summer will be different. He will have graduated high school and be preparing to go to college in the fall. Thus, the end of the era and life as we now know it.
For the last fourteen years, every fall began a new school year, whether it be in pre-school, elementary, middle or high school. And while each beginning brought new friends, interests and classes, as expected, there was a continuity with kids being in school in the fall. It’s been our way of life as a family almost as long as we’ve been a family. The kids can’t remember anything else, and life PK (pre-kids) seems so very long ago it’s like it was lived by someone else.
While I don’t mean it to sound so gloomy and melancholy, it does make me stop and think—and appreciate—all this summer as a family will be. I know that I probably am a little overly sentimental about my kids growing up. I thought I’d gotten better than I used to be about it. When they were little I put off going through their closets to weed out outgrown clothing because all I could hear in my head the whole time I did was the song Puff the Magic Dragon. Those too short pants and shirts were a physically tangible sign that my babies were moving on and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I tortured myself with dwelling on that fact—masochistic, I know.
As a parent, I want my kids to grow up to be healthy and independent, so it’s rather hypocritical of me to be sad when they do exactly that. After all, if Tyler was 30 and still lived at home with us I’d be upset then, too. Ironically, Darrell and I have been encouraging him to go away somewhere for college. I lived at home when I went to college, and although I joined a sorority and enjoyed my college days, I never felt like I had the same type of college experience as my friends who went away to school. I want my son to have the opportunity to be semi-independent in the way that only being a college kid away from home allows. But that requires me to accept that he is growing up and is no longer a little kid. And I will, because I never want to hold him back from being the person he was meant to be.
Time with our kids—these short seasons—shouldn’t be taken for granted anyway, but this summer I plan to especially cherish the time we spend together as a family. It may be the last ordinary summer as we now know it, but it can also be the first summer of a new season and a new chapter in our family’s history. Long live summer!